To Infinity and Beyond… Today! How SpaceX Makes The Next Frontier That Much Closer

Have you ever dreamed to be an astronaut?

To be given the opportunity to explore the stars and take first steps in genuinely uncharted territories speaks to something that might be innate to our human wants and, ultimately, our dreams. But space flight is not an easy task. To even be given the opportunity of being an astronaut, you will need to go through rigorous academic trials and physical preparation to stand out amongst your peers in being selected for the next launch. Moreover, these very launches are far and in-between compared to other things happening in the world, averaging about 40 launches a year that is shared across the different space agencies worldwide.

Yet with technological evolution comes innovation in some of the most exciting areas of research. One example of how the aerospace industry has furthered itself with the help of private enterprises is through Space Exploration Technologies Corp., commonly known as SpaceX, and its efforts to make space travel much more accessible in the years to come.  

The History of SpaceX

Those of you who might not be aware of SpaceX will at least likely be aware of its founder and ultimate guide toward the company’s vision, Elon Musk. That’s right, the rebel founder of Tesla who revolutionized the automobile industry is looking to do the same when it comes to space exploration.

Starting in 2002, SpaceX’s main task was to develop a more accessible space exploration agency that focused on the possible reusability of rockets compared to the standard disposal method other companies were used to doing. With a stretch goal of being able to colonize other planets, SpaceX has since made waves with new technologies that have allowed for successful launches over the last decade, with government-tied agencies like NASA quickly seeing the potential of SpaceX technologies and requesting their launch capabilities in their own projects.

Since then SpaceX has been slowly improving the industry numbers on launches per year, bringing it to a record high of 135 orbital launches in 2021 alone.

What SpaceX is Doing Differently

What is the defining factor that makes SpaceX such a force of change in an industry that is already considered to be at the forefront of revolution? The answer likely stems from their focus on reusability. Keeping in line with how Tesla’s electric-powered vehicles looked to go beyond performance and into long-term sustainability, SpaceX’s reusable technologies are looking to allow for a more comprehensive view of space travel beyond the industry’s focus on fuel efficiencies.

The Falcon 9 Reusable Rocket

It’s this focus on sustainability that actually allowed for more frequent flights towards the stars as capital investments on the actual rockets can be better managed through a properly reusable system. Instead of having to construct an entirely new rocket each time a launch is required, SpaceX is able to utilize these rockets for multiple launches, with component parts that can be replaced if needed.

One of their star products that have pushed this goal further is the Falcon line of rockets, specifically their Falcon 9 model, which is actively being monitored for its impressive number of flights and reflights as a result of its reusability. Designed for both cargo and people transport, the Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s current vision for a sustainable space exploration model (though is likely to be supplanted by SpaceX’s plans for an even more innovative ship).

It’s not just the singular rocket’s reusability that keeps SpaceX on the map in the industry but its study on rocket-propulsion engines as well. Through extensive research and smart manufacturing, SpaceX was also able to develop the Merlin engine, a reusable and incredibly fuel-efficient engine that makes their ship flight possible. Multiple Merlin engines are utilized per space flight, with the Falcon 9 using about 10 engines in total, while the heavier cargo-focused Falcon heavy uses as many as 28.

SpaceX’s Effects on the Aerospace Industry

Already SpaceX has caused ripple effects in aerospace on what the focus of this consistently evolving industry should be, and the company is not alone. Bolstered somewhat by SpaceX’s effort in the same space, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has also increased its efforts on getting his own space exploration company, Blue Origin, further in its development as a real player in aeronautics. Even Virgin-mobile founder Richard Branson is getting into the thick of things, moving forward from his airline business and towards the stars with Virgin Galactic.

The effects go beyond these business leaders' focus and have the potential to affect the consumer as well. Already space tourism is a hot topic amongst those eager and readily able to pay for the transportation costs, with some more capable investors even willing to sponsor group flights as part of a larger trip toward the outskirts of the earth’s orbit.

Even non-travel-oriented businesses are likely to look at these developments and see new opportunities for growth. Space mining company AstroForge is one of these more forward-thinking companies looking to capitalize on the nascent state of regular space travel. Through the possible mining of asteroids and other planets, we can decrease our dependencies on natural materials found solely on earth and possibly decrease the already negative effects that environmental exploitation is causing.

All this was made possible through key advancements in aerospace manufacturing and the tools that come into it. Often to get the kind of precision that SpaceX has with their rockets, companies need to invest in the proper manufacturing robotics that can provide specific and high precision production suitable for aerospace use.

Beyond the Falcon 9

Despite how advanced the Falcon 9 already is in comparison to competitors, SpaceX is already looking towards developing beyond that and into their flagship Starship. Also known as the Super Heavy Rocket, the Starship has the potential of breaking even further ground in space transportation with the capacity to bring about 100 metric tons toward the stars in an effort to further its goal of planetary colonization.

With the different technological developments happening in such a short period of time, it's likely that even these innovations we are discussing now are turned obsolete in 10 years' time. Even so, we can chalk it up to future-centric companies like SpaceX to guide us to what tomorrow is likely going to look like for space travel.

Key Takeaways with SpaceX

  • SpaceX, which was founded in 2002, has been making waves in the aerospace and space exploration industry and increased the average number of flights occurring year round.
  • SpaceX, much like sister company Tesla, is known for its innovative practices and focus on “reusability” of rockets alongside their efficiency.
  • Manufacturing plays a key role in developing their Falcon-line of rockets, often combining several complex components all while maintaining multi-use functionality over their lifetimes.
  • Today, SpaceX is already looking towards their next flagship model known as the Starship. Building this concept and making it into a reality will require SpaceX to further leverage its technological capabilities and rocket manufacturing expertise.

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Published on 

Dec 13, 2022



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